Anglo-Jewry in 1851: the Great Exhibition and political emancipation*

Early in January 1850 Queen Victoria appointed the Commissioners charged with organizing the Great Exhibition of the Works of the Industry of All Nations. She also named the treasurers responsible for maintaining and mon- itoring the Exhibition’s finances. These five prominent men of business included a banker, a railway entrepreneur and the financier Baron Lionel de Rothschild.1 Reporting enthusiastically on Rothschild’s appointment, the Jewish Chronicle commented: “Will the Lords again reject the man whom the Queen thus delighteth to honour?”2 The phrasing is, of course, taken from the Book of Esther but the contemporary context refers to the refusal by the House of Lords on two previous occasions to allow Rothschild to take his seat in the House of Commons as he was not prepared to swear the Oath of Abjuration which contained the unacceptable phrase “on the true faith of a Christian”.3 Although the admission of Jews into Parliament

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